To provide a current and continuous series of data on selected housing and demographic characteristics.
Policy analysts, program managers, budget analysts, and Congressional staff use AHS data to monitor supply and demand, as well as changes in housing conditions and costs, in order to assess housing needs. Analyses based on the AHS are used to advise the executive and legislative branches in the development of housing policies. HUD uses the AHS to improve efficiency and effectiveness and design housing programs appropriate for different target groups, such as first-time home buyers and the elderly. Academic researchers and private organizations also use AHS data in efforts of specific interest and concern to their respective communities.
Type of respondents
- Occupied Housing Units – A household respondent, who must be a knowledgeable household member 16 years of age or over, provides information on the unit, the household composition, and income. We prefer to select the reference person or spouse as the household respondent.
- Vacant Housing Units – A landlord, owner, real estate agent, or knowledgeable neighbor can provide data on the unit.
Sponsoring agency and legal authorities
HUD sponsors the survey under the authority of Title 12, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 1701z-1, 1701z-2(g), and 1701z-10a. The U.S. Census Bureau performs the work under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Section 8. Title 13 U.S.C., Section 9 requires us to keep all information collected strictly confidential.
The AHS is conducted biennially between May and September in odd-numbered years. We collect data between the months of May and September. HUD sometimes adjusts this schedule and/or sample depending on budget constraints.
Release of results
Public use microdata and reports are released approximately 12 months after data collection.
The first AHS was conducted in 1973, under the name of the Annual Housing Survey, with a sample size of 60,000 housing units. The survey was conducted on an annual basis from 1973 to 1981. Due to budget constraints, it became biennial, therefore changing its name to the American Housing Survey. The national sample underwent a redesign in 1985 based on data from the 1980 decennial census, with a base sample size of approximately 47,000 housing units. In 2005, the national sample was improved in two ways. Mobile home coverage was adjusted by replacing the units currently in the sample with mobile homes selected from Census 2000 and assisted living housing units selected from Census 2000 were introduced into the sample, thereby improving coverage of the elderly population.
The paper questionnaire was eliminated in 1997. All interviews from that point on were conducted by computer–assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) using laptop computers. The 1997 AHS National-level data were also the first AHS data processed under a redesigned system using SAS software. In 2007, the newly converted Blaise CAPI survey instrument was adopted. A Spanish version of the instrument was first implemented in 2009.
Beginning with the 2011 AHS, the survey instrument will consist of a permanent core questionnaire plus topical supplements that will rotate in and out of the questionnaire on a yet to be determined schedule.
The AHS provides current information on a wide range of housing subjects, including size and composition of the nation's housing inventory, vacancies, fuel usage, physical condition of housing units, characteristics of occupants, equipment breakdowns, home improvements, mortgages and other housing costs, persons eligible for and beneficiaries of assisted housing, home values, and characteristics of recent movers.
In addition to these core indicators, the 2013 AHS includes topical supplements on public transportation, emergency and disaster preparedness, community involvement, neighborhood characteristics, and doubled-up households (movers entering and leaving unit). Topical supplements added in 2011 (health and safety hazards, modifications made to assist occupants with disabilities, and energy efficiency) were dropped, but may rotate back into the questionnaire in subsequent surveys.
Current plans call for a complete AHS sample redesign beginning with the 2015 survey. As a result, data from the new sample will not be comparable with those from the previous sample.